The first week of April 2017, I returned to the land of futbol, arepas and stifling hot weather on the Caribbean coast of South America. After a brief stay in the US, where several once-familiar things somehow seemed off-kilter, it is now confirmed with certainty that among it’s colorful houses, flavorful foods, vibrant culture and rich history, Colombia truly feels like home.
For the first week back, a trip to Playa Blanca was necessary to reconnect with the turquoise waters and white sand that makes this beach near Cartagena a variable treasure to explore. Even with the constant building and increase in prices for everything from beer to buñuelos, Playa Blanca still boasts some amazing snorkeling, sun and surf for the sirena within.
The recent stab of inflation is noticeable, and Colombia has hit the gente where it hurts the most, increasing the price on common goods including alcohol and public transportation. Even the TransCaribe added $100.00 pesos to it’s price of $2,000.00 per pasaje, making it annoying to have to present small change versus just a bill; it also means you can no longer buy 5 passes for an even $10,000. Still, it remains commendable how efficient public trans is in this beautiful country.
Back To Barranquilla
Barranquilla hermosa, Yo te canto ahora
Con gratitud y amor, Del cantor al pueblo que adora
Beautiful Barranquilla, I’ll sing you now
With gratitude and love, From the singer to the people who love
As tradition stands since 2014, a visit to Colombia’s fourth largest city was a must for Semana Santa (Holy Week), so off it was on Berlinas for the 1.5 hour trip along the coast from Cartagena.
With the last visit to the rapidly-growing metropolis in September for the CLIL Symposium, changes are already obvious in many parts, including the addition of the massive city-block-size Centro Commerical Viva in the north.
A modern structure four floors high with a variety of high-end shopping, several notable restaurants and two Juan Valdez Cafés, Viva is a consumers’ playland of sight, selection, decór and wonder.
If shopping at an enormous place like Viva isn’t your thing, Barranquilla has plenty of history and nature to enjoy, especially in the northeast, near the Plaza de la Aduana, where a new Museum of Modern Art is being built close to the eloquent colonial edifice.
Nearby, a visit to the Avenida del Rio, made famous in the 2016 video for La Bicicleta by costeño singers Carlos Vives and Shakira, shows that, while the river still is in need of a good cleaning, the mosaic art and winding malecón, with its wild breezes from the waterfront, provides a great place for walking and socializing.
Another interesting place to visit in Barranquilla is the Castillo de Salgar, an historic customs house built in 1849 for export goods, located a bit further, near Puerto Colombia. Accessible by one of the many colorful Oriente buses, with their fringe-curtain windscreens and rumba-riffic stereos, the Castillo sits high on a huge cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
These days, its massive rooms overlooking the ocean are available to rent for special events. Families of several generations seem to come in droves here, snapping photos together among the impressive, distant views.
Finally, no visit to La Arenosa would be complete without a stop at the Frutera Barranquilla. A landmark corner location near the picturesque barrio Las Delicias, la Futera is open 24 hours a day, serving some of the most delicious juices, pizzas and fritos imaginable.
Try an irresistible Nispero (loquat) or health-beneficial Zapote – juices are made with either milk or water – and savor the fried snacks like carimañolas or deditos de queso. For this visit, we indulged in huge slices of hot, crusty pizza and golden empanadas that squirted melty cheese at first bite. Delicious!
After a full week of happiness in Barranquilla, the bus ride back to Cartagena brought many thoughts about returning to live in this beautiful country, some of them being more serious than enjoying tasty fritos or live Vallenato music played on the bus.
While the other pensamientos ranged from continuing profitable independent work and tourist visas vs. work visas, the more celebratory thoughts included gratitude for living abroad, appreciation for the people here, and the awe of how fantastic Colombia truly is, especially along its balmy and brilliant coast.